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A 19th Century Kappa: Kaki Shibu Infused Paper

August 21, 2012

A kappa is a traditional Japanese cape that was worn for travel and as a buffer against the elements.  The word kappa is borrowed from the Portuguese capa as the Portuguese were said to have introduced this style of garment to Japan.Often kappa are made of cotton and they can be lined with paper infused with kaki shibu or persimmon tannin: this coated paper is semi-impervious to water, which is good for traveling in rain, and, also, when the paper moves, it makes a pleasant rustling sound.In the case of this 19th century kappa, the paper cape is the finished cape.  This is not a lining.  This is the garment which would have been worn on the street.Notice how the paper is joined with perfectly evenly matched seams, and that the pattern is one of radiating wedge shapes.And notice, too, the hand stitched details, such as the button-like disc, below, around which a cotton cord was wound to secure the garment closed.The kaki shibu-impregnated paper is leathery in look, but in this case it feels almost as if the paper is oiled.  It’s very crisp to the touch, yet it is still fairly durable.

I’ll have to look at bit harder at the maker’s mark, above, and see what I can come up with.

Even though kappa are often made of wonderful old, cottons, I generally don’t buy them, even though the cottons are fine.  Kappa are difficult to display, but I couldn’t pass up this paper one, and I think I found a good solution for showing it.

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A Group of Tsutsus

April 12, 2011

A long time ago on this blog I showed a group of tsutsus, the shibugami or persimmon tannin paper cones used to draw images in the tsutsugaki dyeing process.   On my recent trip to Japan, I found quite a number of unused ones, and I wanted to show this visually arresting group.

Each measures 6″ x 1 1/2″ or 15 cm x 4 cm and I have about 15 of these.

And I know I’ve been saying this for a while, but my new webshop is almost finished!  I will be launching the new site in the next day or two…

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A Group of Four Pale and Patched Boro Sakabukuro

January 2, 2011

This is a group of four, boro sakabukuro, or sake straining bags: the pale brown color and the strident white patching and mending are really beautiful.

I’ve shown some other sakabukuro on this blog in the past, so have a look at the word cloud or “tags” to the right of this posting, click on sakabukuro.  You can view some of the preceding posts.These bags are made of a commercial grade cotton duck canvas cloth which has been saturated in kaki shibu, or the tannin of green persimmons.  Kaki shibu helps strengthen the fibers of the cotton and that’s a good thing: in order to make sake, these bags were filled with unfiltered sake lees; the filled bags were then pressed so a purer form of sake would start draining from the bag, leaving the solids behind.The repeated pressure applied to these bags during the sake making process would affect the condition of the bags, necessitating patching and mending.Soy sauce was made in a similar way using similar bags and although these bags are generally referred to as sakabukuro, one cannot be certain if they were used for making sake or soy sauce.  Unless, of course, someone tells you from where these bags were procured.All the patching and mending of the bag is done by hand.  However, the top seam is finished with machine stitching.Each of these bags measures 30″ x 10″ or 76.5 cm x 25.5 cm.  They probably date to the mid twentieth century.   A gorgeous group!

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Five Superb and Unusual Antique Sakabukuro

December 2, 2009

On my previous post, which you can see below this one, I showed textiles that were saturated in kaki shibu or green persimmon tannin.  I wrote about a set of six sakabukuro or sake straining bags, and I decided to follow that post by sharing more images of sakakuburo.

These are from my private collection and are really unusual for their patching—-which is really beautiful.


Although sakabukuro are generally mended with a distinctive stitch, they sometimes are patched with kaki shibu dyed fabric: this is the first time I’ve seen sakabukuro mended with cotton cloth, whose pale color is in wonderful contrast to the dark brown of the bag.


Really, really unusual; really, really beautiful.





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A Boro Asa Tsunobukuro: Patched Hemp “Horn Bag”

January 26, 2009

I’m showing here a corner of Sri, illuminated by the bright, afternoon January light, and arranged here is an antique tansu bearing boro, sashiko and sakiori jackets, but the real attraction is what is on the far wall, the long and wonderful boro asa tsunobukuro, or the patched and mended “horn bag” which is woven of hemp.

Tsunubukuro (tsuno=horn; fukuro=bag) are storage bags made from one continuous length of hemp cloth that is sewn on the bias.  Because of this bias construction, tsunobukuro are “springy” and their ability to accept bulk or volume is somehow elastic.  This tsunobukuro is a nice size: it measures 60″ x 17″, 152.5 cm x 43 cm and I think it dates to the early twentieth century.

Have a look at the rich, dark color of this bag: its patina is probably due to age, or, it could have had a quick dip in a kaki shibu bath.  Kaki shibu is green persimmon tannin which gives a brown color and is used to strengthen cloth: it also makes the cloth a bit impermeable to water.

The hemp thread stitches are really wonderful, too: have a careful look.  And do spend some time considering the patches and their arrangement on the bag, which I think is really fantastic.

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A Wall of Boro Sakabukuro or Mended Sake Straining Bags

November 7, 2008

This is a huge pieced area of sakabukuro, twelve flayed bags have been sewn together to create a large, single textile measuring 84″ x 67″/ 213.5 cm x 170 cm.  Sakabukuro are bags made of cotton which are saturated in green persimmon tannin or kaki shibu. In the process of making sake, these bags would be filled with sake lees or crude sake; these filled bags would then be subjected to pressure and filtered sake would be forced out.  Sakabukuro are collectible items both in Japan and in the West.

The pressure from repeated use would tear the bags and would necessitate patching and mending.  I’m not sure why so many bags were joined together to create such a large textile, but clearly it was useful somehow: perphaps a floor covering?

Mendings on sakabukuro are fantastic, some of the most interesting in the field of boro textiles.

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